Digital Art Premieres on Campus

A picture of a derby hat adorned with a yellow feather suspended somewhat melancholically in space hangs just a few feet away from an installation of a metal orb slowly creeping over sand while leaving kaleidoscopic trails in its wake.

These are just two prime examples of David Holt's emotion-stirring conception of art and Jean-Pierre Hébert's mathematical one.

As different as night and day the works of artists Holt and Hébert do however share a common trait-the ability to evoke a "wow!" from those who view them.

This was evident in the faces of those who were present at the Santa Monica College Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery opening where the two artists showcased their work.

The event was well attended by students and outside admirers alike, many of whom, armed with sketchbooks and notepads, captured the evening.

"I like Holt's subjects and interesting use of colors," said Petrina Tang, 22, a senior and international relations major at UC Irvine.

"Jean-Pierre Hébert is more serious, but both are beautiful in their own way. I especially like how he makes his photos look like drawings," she said.

This sentiment was also shared by Jane Shibata, who teaches art here at SMC: "His (Holt's) paintings are more colorful, whereas his (Hébert's) work has connections with sciences," and is more "monochromatic and precise," she said.

"The neat thing about a really good digital artist is if you can get it (the art) to look like it was done by hand, you can't tell if it's done by computer."

Upon delving further into the gallery, it became evident where the two got their impressions. Images of ethereal lilies and hibiscus flowers in yellows and reds shared space with two-toned waves and ripples of gray and silver. Yes, different, but fiercely beautiful.

"Beauty is the most important thing about reality," said a passionate Holt when asked about his process. "I love the optical experience - what you do to make a work is really remarkable. Reality is so immense you can't capture it with conventional mediums."

An award-winning photographer for more than 35 years, Holt has created work that largely involves the merging of several exposures onto a single sheet of film, and then digitally blending the images with the aid of a computer.

The results are pieces of art with a surreal, dreamlike quality to them - pictures like "Chrysanthemum," a purple, swirled interpretation of the flower, done so that it imparts a sense of vertigo and even sadness to those who view it. A visual downer if you will.

He further describes how his process helps to "create insights into reality" and "change perspectives."

On the other end of the spectrum is the allegorist Hébert, a pioneer of conceptual drawings based on algorithms fed into a computer driving a plotter.

Hébert's work is all at once logical yet chaotic. From the intricate vortex of "Spirale Metagonale" to the Kyoto Zen gardens inspired "Ulysses" sand installation, there is a cool order within the randomness.

"I just try to make drawings that I like," said Hébert when asked about his inspirations. While indicating at the "Ulysses" he said, "the sand, the ball, it is temporary art, like the wheel of life, you can meditate when you look at it, and then start over."

A point reinforced later when an apologetic father snatches up a young child who had dabbed his fingers into the sand, to which Hébert just smiled and mouthed, "It's OK."

Digital art is fast gaining acceptance in becoming the media of choice through which artists can better express themselves.

The ability to do things that previously took years now means people with creative minds, but inept hands, are now one step closer to being all they can be as artists.

"You have to notice the story first, then think about how it's created. Look at the image and not how it's done," Shibata said. "And I think the show does a good job at (showing) that." So, do people really still have to suffer for their art to be considered artists?

Digital Art Duo: Jean-Pierre Hébert & David Holt, SMC's Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery, Madison Campus.. For information and gallery hours, call (310) 434-3434. Free.